Mutant Cowboy Space Pirate
By: Robert Kahil
Ernest dressed as a soldier, donning a fake mustache and plastic rifle. Samantha pranced around as a blue tinted angel. Jimmy was stumbling along the hill on Park Lane as Frankenstein’s Monster. Another green man with them was Terrance trying to read minds as Martian Manhunter of the Justice League.
His tactics didn’t work because he didn’t really wear any pants; only a red cape draped around his skinny legs and the golden belt buckle holding up his blue athletic shorts. Every time he opened his mouth his teeth would clatter from the cold. Stuart would press a button on Clyde’s foot and made him SQWUAK with laughter. It sent everyone in stitches, even Terrance.
Some of the houses backed with the spirit of Halloween. Pumpkins carved by expert hands; Stuart believed everyone was a born pumpkin carver. Skeletons hanging on the door; witches, ghosts, and bats hanging from tree branches. On the ground were Styrofoam graveyards with zombie hands reaching out for their ankles. The sharp holly bushes and other, less menacing leaf-bundles housed a variety of spiders and webs, whether they glowed or not. He felt free and wondrous as a different person.
Stuart was a mutant cowboy space pirate raiding houses with his less-than-human and more-than-human band of marauders. “Candy, candy, we’re here to steal it all!” they would cry out in unison after telling the unfortunate doormen, “Trick-r-treat, smell my feet!”
Other houses were barren and dark, far more frightening than the ones he could reach with his greedy hands. Samantha had a mean streak of suggesting they egg a certain number of these windows and yards; or at least the ones who belonged to her enemies.
Candy was great that night. Except for the licorice sticks because he hated those; they left a bitter taste in his mouth. He traded candy with his friends on the corner of Belleview Avenue and Zone Drive, in front of the well-lit King’s Park. As a birthday prank they shoved their licorice into the pumpkin candy carrier Mom had picked up for him.
It had been a fun hour and a half but now they were tired. There hadn’t been any trouble. Plenty of other trick-r-treating kids were out and about in groups watched by parents. He was envious of the brave older kids who went by themselves. But they didn’t have as much fun without a hive. Together, like a hive of busy bees, Stuart and his friends walked down Belleview and then turned right on DuPont Road. Ernest was the first to break away. Next was Jimmy, Terrance, and then for a few glorious moments Stuart was alone with Samantha.
Their footsteps kept them extra company.
“Are you warm?” he asked her.
“Uh-huh, how did you like my present?”
Stuart smiled, “It was great, thank you!”
She rewarded him with a smile and rosy, wind-kissed dimples. “Did you try it out yet?”
“No, but I painted-“
“- You look nice,” she interrupted.
“So do you,”
“What are you, really? You never said,”
“I’m a mutant cowboy space pirate,”
Samantha giggled and brushed a strand of her long, curly blonde hair behind an ear. “You’re a cute cowboy mutant space pirate.”
A screen door creaked open nearby, “Samantha, honey,” her mom said, “Hurry up in now.”
“Okay mom, just a minute.” Samantha answered cheerily without looking at her house. She leaned forward and tippy-toed to plant a wet kiss on his lips. He didn’t have time to respond. “Happy birthday Stuart, and happy Halloween,”
With a final smile Samantha was skipping up her driveway and into the warmth of her house. Her mother laughed. “Goodnight Stuart,” she waved. He waved back.
“Good night Ms. Bostitch,”
Energy coursed through Stuart. His face was red from excitement. No matter what scary thoughts he had, he couldn’t get rid of the big loopy grin. Samantha had kissed him and it felt more magical than his birthday and Halloween combined. He did not even feel his feet touch the ground.
Stuart hit the corner and saw a blinding flash of light coming from the manhole cover in the middle of the road. He stopped walking and leaned against the fire hydrant. The street lamp above him shattered. Stuart yelped, crouching and shielding his head with his hands. His pumpkin slipped from his fingers and dumped out into the road. It was dark on this side of the street- and then the street lamp across from him shattered too. He saw the glass scatter the sidewalk and Mr. Hoover’s yard, especially in his wife’s prized (now dead) rosebush.
Stuart didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have to worry about the grin anymore. He found strength from his fear and bent on his knees to get the candy back. None shall be left. Halfway through his retrieval Stuart was still alone on the edge of the long street. He paused to look around. Most of the houses had lights in the windows and pumpkins in their front yard. Did no one hear the breaking lamps?
Car alarms all around the neighborhood went off at the same time. The sudden noise was almost deafening. He screamed with the cars and clamped his hands around his ears. It lasted for around ten seconds but felt like hours to him. He stopped with the noise, shaking, and rubbed his throat. He heard his own heavy breathing but nothing else. The air pressure squeezed his body. He wanted the rest of his candy and he wanted the warm comfort of his Swamp Thing comics and most of all he wanted the comfort of his home.
Some of the candy still dropped to the ground beside the sewer grate. His nerves wouldn’t let him get a good grip of the candy. But the candy was good; he had enough now to satisfy the next couple of days. He turned right on Crew Lane. He walked fast. It was getting really dark now. Each house he passed switched off their front lights. Soon the lights ahead of him were shut down. “What’s wrong with these people? Aren’t there still trick-r-treaters around?”
Their disappearance startled him. How could he still be the only one around? Was this a birthday prank? He reached the next corner and waited at the STOP sign only long enough to check for traffic. A loud pop burst through the silence and then a manhole cover landed directly in his path. Stuart tripped backwards but didn’t fall with the pumpkin. He scrambled to closer to someone’s yard. A scaly green hand reached out from the sewer drain and gripped his ankle.
He screamed, falling, and kicked at the hand. “Oww-Oww-Oww!” its owner said but didn’t release him.
“Let me go!” he yelled. His butt rolled into the street. His hands scraped raw. Tears started rolling down his cheeks. It was his birthday, why couldn’t he just go home with some candy? Why wasn’t anyone around to help?
“Let me go!” a rather human voice mocked. It laughed. “Let me go, let me go, let me go, it ain’t happening!”
Stuart was suddenly angry. Of course it wasn’t a monster. It was just a normal kid. He cradled the pumpkin to his chest with one arm. With his free hand Stuart picked out candies and threw them down between the grate bars. A few of them bounced off and hit the road but most made their mark. The rubber, yellow-clawed hand slipped away with a scream.
Rambunctious laughter came from the other side of the intersection. Three voices on his street, filtering through the shadows like demons. He accidentally brushed Clyde’s foot when reaching up to his cowboy hat. SQUAWK, HA-HA-HA! The bird made him jump. The voices on the other side went wild. He could hear them slapping their thighs or jumping like monkeys on the grass.
“Are you mocking me, really? You’re dead kid. You hear me? You’re dead!” the monster below raged. Two rubber hands, calloused palms up, smacked the grate hard enough for it to rattle. He stepped away when the hands reached out from the darkness. There was another furious yell and then the figure disappeared.
Stuart knew where it was going; the open manhole cover. No way could he pick up the slick metal and place it. A flashlight beam bobbed up and down the top of the rusty ladder. Movement caught his attention. An unknown man stood under the street lamp across from him. It turned on, bathing the houses, roads, and sidewalk nearby in blue light. His arms were outstretched, as if saying, “Ta-da, I said let there be light and therefore it was there.”
The man was tall and thin. Gray hair spindled out of both sides of a painted face. He had crimson cheeks, a raccoon band across the eyes, the ghost white skin of a clown, and off putting pig ears with tufts of hair spilling out of them too. His red ball nose forced the lips into a tight line for more room.
Stuart couldn’t forget the eyes. They were as black as the starless night sky. No light reflected off of them. Even the whites of the eyes were pitiless. And then he opened his mouth and became an “it” in one second flat. Horror shoved Stuart’s heart into his throat. His knees were knocking together. He didn’t realize his mouth was open until his lungs hurt. Still, he couldn’t look away from the narrow fangs replacing its canines. A tongue flicked out of its mouth.
You taste delicious from here; a liquid voice filled the air. My bite doesn't hurt…. Much.
How could it speak when its lips weren’t even moving?
That proved it to Stuart. A vampire was standing before him, less than twenty feet away. He read too many comics and horror stories not to know what the creature was. He turned around, towards Tesla Way and ran as fast as he could. He didn’t want to lead the teenagers or the vampire to where he lived. Where am I going? At that very moment Stuart Brady didn’t have to worry about monsters. He could only think about how he had never run so fast in his life.
His legs strained.
His lungs burned.
A candy filled pumpkin slapped his knees.
He ran and ran and ran some more.
Tesla Way began to slope three quarters of the way down. He had to stop because the steepness pivoted his balance forward. Stuart had experienced rolling on concrete a few years before, after falling off his bike. That was not the fun summer day his father had called it.
He couldn’t get larger breaths than a pant. Pontiac Bridge was some distance away after the road leveled off. It was marked by the one old-timey lamp hanging under the yellow sign, GO SLOW. The two story brick house he had stopped in front of was empty and dark. No cars were parked in the slanted driveway. Stuart wasn’t sure what he would have done if there was someone home. Yes, ma’am or sir, I was accidentally locked out of my house down the street and my parents aren’t home. Can I stay here until morning? A vampire is chasing me.
A swarm of bats with glimmering red eyes flew low to the ground, lifting high above his head as they reached him. He tried to stay still. Stuart breathed deeply to control his heart rate. Be cool, he told himself, like John Travolta in that one movie. As the rest of them flew above him Stuart looked over his shoulder. They were heading into the forest surrounding either side of Pontiac River.
The closer he got to the river the quieter it got. The current wasn’t strong tonight. He smelled bat guano and scrunched his face. Moonlight couldn’t reach the ground after the tree-line started, between him and the lit lamp. It was a beautiful halo across the distance.
He pulled the flashlight out of his coat pocket and turned it on. The beam of light went deep into the woods. Twigs, fallen crinkly leaves, and pine cones didn’t take an order to where they lay on the road. A wind rustled the thin branches above him. He heard bats take flight and looked up. They were hanging upside down from every visible branch, staring down at him with their glowing red eyes. “Where are you vampire?” he asked allowed.
“I am here,” one bat said in its voice. “I am here,” another said. One more said, “I am here!” and then all of them claimed, “I am here!” in a terrifying, deafening voice.
Stuart covered his ears. He was tired of going deaf so many times in one night.
The bats swarmed together in the squeakiest, flappiest, tornado he had ever seen. He released his ears. A figure began to take shape. It didn’t take long before the bats dwindled and the only thing standing in front of Stuart was the vampire clown. He was wearing baggy, dark red pants, the same color as his long shoes. Dry clay crusted the tips, pushing up from the bottom and highlighting where the toes might be. His long, sunflower colored overcoat had four, fuzzy green buttons. Blood dripped down from the collar and spread downwards in a Rorschach image.
The vampire clown approached and held up a palm for Stuart to stay. "I need to test something.” He squatted down enough to look Stuart in the eyes. The vampire flicked a tongue out to tap one corner of his mouth and then slid to the other.
“What are you doing?”
The vampire did his thing once more before stopping. “I do that when I’m thinking. Test the sharpness of my fangs,”
“How are they?”
“Good for you,”
“Bad for you,” the vampire shot back with a challenging smile.
On the hill behind him a truck engine roared. High-beams speared through the canopy, turning the forest into a green, yellow, and brown world for just a moment. The vampire hissed between his fangs. “What is this?”
The vampire hissed again, his face bunching into something resembling an animal. His veins grew prominence in his neck and turned as black as his eyes. And then he exploded into a ball of mist. It rolled over Stuart’s ankles. This was his chance. Once the oily fluids drifted out of sight he ran for the bridge. Somewhere behind him there were screams. The headlights shut off. He hit the wooden boards at a stride and began to slow down. No one was chasing him. He thought it was worse that way, the silence was too deep here.
The lamp lit his way halfway through the bridge and dimmed until meeting the second powerful lamp at the other end. Above him the rafters were molding and riddled with wasp nests. He stayed near the edge. The windows were set midway up as tiny squares cut into the thick wood with iron bars quartering off four sections. With enough light in there he clipped the small, strong flashlight to his belt.
Stuart was sweating through his leather coat, dampening the metallic lining and cuffs. His hands smelled moldy. He was about to push on and then the screaming started again. He looked out the window. A spider-web brushed across his finger tips and he pulled back. “Stop, please God stop I beg of-“
The screaming cut off into a continuous yell.
A large figure dropped out of the starry sky in front of him. There was a glimpse of moonlit cape and Darth Vader’s mask. Stuart gawked when the dark lord struck the murky water. It splashed on his hands and face. He backed away but bumped into something and it shoved him back to the window. The iron bars struck his left brow, both cheeks, and crunched the bridge of his nose. “Ah!”
The vampire pressed a palm against his throat, keeping him pinned to the bars with no effort.
“Shut up!” the vampire whispered into his ear, “Don’t even think about screaming. Just watch. You’re going to feel much worse pain if you don’t listen to me. When I tell you to stay where you are you do it!”
“I didn’t hear you tell me that,”
“Then you need to clean your ears in the afterlife. Watch,”
The water bubbled in the middle of wide ripples. Vader’s mask surfaced before his flailing arms. “Johnny, Johnny, help me man! Oh god it hurts,”
“But it’s my birthday! This isn’t fair,” Stuart said.
“No, it’s not, but whining isn’t going to change anything. You can’t defeat me,”
“Sure I can,”
Uncle Doug reared his head and laughed. It echoed through the bridge wood. His ears wagged again. “What are you going to do?” he asked, “Throw candy at me?”
“I’ll find a way.”
The vampire squatted and patted Stuart’s cheek. He couldn’t help but shudder. It smiled again, sadly, and nodded. “Who knows, the night is still young. I do not own as I used to,” he said, “You are a good kid.” Uncle Doug stood and walked the way Stuart had come from. Creeping out from behind the pillar, he saw the vampire melding into the thin shadows where one lamp light met the other.
“Where’s that kid?” he heard Johnny say.
A giant Koi with legs hopped out of the water and landed in front of the bully with a wet plop. Without a hitch it reached out with huge spindly arms and opened its jaws. They reached down to the ground. It gripped Johnny- screaming- head first into its jaws and then clamped them shut like nothing happened. The Koi turned back to the creek and burped.
Johnny was still screaming when three glowing green bubbles floated out of the Koi’s pale-pink mouth. A human hand printed itself on the Koi’s stomach. A few fingers stuck out of the lower gill of what could pass its shoulders. Next a foot stuck out of the side on a cluster of slimy black scales. And then the large white fins on its back flustered in movement. The Koi didn’t seem to notice Tracey, who couldn’t speak, or the girlish scream coming from behind Vader’s mask.
The Koi casually stuck its right arm in its mouth and moved around. There was more screaming. Distinctly human looking bulges gorged out the already stocky physique. “What are you doing to me? Momma, momma, make it stop!” Johnny the bully yelled.
The Koi pulled its hand out of its mouth and turned to face Tracey, who was scrambling to her feet. She was dressed as Princess Leia; or that was, if the leader had pink hair, too much mascara, and three nose rings. The Koi stepped closer. Ricky stopped screaming for a glorious moment. Flaps of skin retracted from its nostrils. Stuart could have sworn he saw the thin lips widen into a smile. “You smell fishy,” it said in a wet voice. Water dripped out of its jowls.
Tracey screamed and ran towards the road. Ricky looked over his shoulder, holding himself up by the arms. The Koi sidled over Darth Vader as if he was an ant and took chase. “Keep away from her you freak!”
Stuart gazed around jerked back from Uncle Doug. They looked at each other with a mixture of horror and confusion. He looked up and the vampire gazed down. “I think I need a new pair of clown pants.”
Uncle Doug rolled his eyes. Stuart didn't know what happened but his vision suddenly went black.
“What the hell is that?” Ernest asked. All of his friends looked up from the pile of candy. He pointed.
“An Emo Princess Leia,” Jimmy suggested.
“Man eating fish! Man eating fish!” Tracey yelled in a mantra. Her flip flops didn’t do much too much to slow her. Her tan robes fluttered behind her in the trailing wind. The screaming entered a Doppler Effect as she passed them in a pink-topped blur.
“Oh,” Jimmy said, “It’s a man eating fish.”
And there was. Its gills heaved from below the wide open jaws. A blonde head poked out of the mouth. “Get me out of here! I don’t feel so-“
The blonde head threw up all over the road. The Koi paused in front of them and reached into a pouch. It rubbed a flopping trout over its tongue for a better flavor. “What is that?” the blonde screamed.
The Koi shoved its whole webbed hand into its mouth and fed the blonde the fish it had just as mouthwash. The screams were muffled but no less intense. A terrified face looked out at the group, fish tail squirming out of his lips. The Koi put both hands into its mouth and pushed the blonde farther into its gullet.
It left wet, webbed, three-toed footprints all down the street when it took to running again.
“Do we wanna call that a costume and call it a night for that matter?” Samantha asked in a horrified, mousy voice. The Koi's fins were whipping from side to side along its back. A stubby tail with three columns of spikes running down it swung from side to side, as if it had forgotten it was on land.
“Yes,” all of them said unanimously
When they believed it was safe to stop watching the Koi, Jimmy was the first to gaze down at the storm drain again. “I told you something’s wrong with Stuart. He would never leave his candy like this,”
“Or his space button,” Terrance said. He was still green but he had put on some sweatpants and a sweater over the suspenders holding his cape together. Crouching, the group formed a semi-circle around the button. It shined under the flashlight Ernest and Jimmy had with them.
C3-PO smiled up at them in front of a back drop of a starry night sky, not un-similar to the one above them. “Should we try his home?” Terrance asked. He picked up the candy and the button and put it in his pocket.
“No stupid, the man eating fish went that way.” Ernest retorted.
“Yeah stupid,” Jimmy gave Terrance his best stink eye but he came out looking sick and mournful instead.
“Well stupid, it wants Princess Leia, not us.” Terrance huffed out his chest.
“Yeah stupid,” Jimmy turned his sad-sick look (pouting lips included) to Ernest.
Ernest gave him a better stink eye. “Whose side are you on?”
Jimmy shrank back and brushed shoulders with Samantha. “I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m on hers,”
“I haven’t said anything,” she pushed him away. She rubbed a hand over her temples. “All of you, shut up. We need to find Stuart.”
“We could try calling him,” Ernest said.
“I’ve already tried that,”
“Just try again.”
Samantha sighed but pulled her phone out of her white jacket. She found Stuart’s number and put the phone to her ear, glowering at all the boys. “It’s ringing,”
A second later there was a buzzing noise. Ernest looked around. No one else seemed to hear it. Under a holly bush beside the mailbox beside them, was a little blue light. It bounced on the ground and collected dirt with each vibration. “Over there,” he told them.
Samantha gasped. “Oh no,”
“Let it keep ringing,” Terrance said. He got on his hands and knees. He delicately plucked the phone out and Jimmy helped him up. Samantha put the phone back in her pocket. Her eyes were more whites and her lips were drawn taught, “Where is he?”
Ernest shrugged. “I don’t know Samantha, but we need to find him tonight.”
Ernest looked at the backyard of the house. His harpoon gun was pointing at the ankle-high, yellowed grass. Samantha was standing beside him with her father’s aluminum slugger. She pointed at the bright light in a basement window with the bat. “What’s down there?”
He shrugged. The light was a thin line from where they stood. “Hopefully it’s Stuart,” he said. I wanna get out of here, fast.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy said. He was a little behind them with a Taser and pepper spray. It was his uncle’s, a night-guard at the Museum of Archeology.
Terrance nodded. He held a can of aerosol and a lighter in front of him at arm’s length. Ernest hoped his friend knew how to use it.
A large cluster of bricks tumbled from the top of the fireplace. Thousands of bats took flight and headed directly towards them. All of them, except for a particularly large one, flew off into the darkness. The kids watched it hover above them, startled and trying to hide their faces. Ernest felt his heart beating at a much too rapid pace. The bat swooped down in front of them and landed as a clown.
Samantha yelped, Terrance ducked to his stomach, and Jimmy pushed forward to fire his pepper spray. The vampire’s eyes widened but he leaped to the side, rolling away. “A real vampire,” Ernest gasped, he couldn’t find his breath.
“Hold up,” Uncle Doug said, holding his palms out. “We just weren’t expecting visitors. You have no right to be guest and then attack us.”
“You have our friend!” Samantha said, holding her bat up, ready to swing.
Uncle Doug narrowed his eyes. His lips twitched. “Do we, really, now?” he produced an air-horn from thin air and held it up for them to see. He shot Jimmy with a large blast of bright blue silly string. It covered his face and harms and got in his hair; draping off of Frankenstein’s neck bolts. Jimmy writhed around and tried to pull it off. Samantha helped him. Ernest tried to stare the vampire down but couldn’t meet its black eyes. Uncle Doug guffawed, slapping his thighs and spraying random silly string colors into the air.
“Why do you have pig ears?” he asked.
“I don’t have to explain myself, now leave.”
“I don’t know.”
Terrance was slinking around somewhere in the background, behind the vampire. He was running fast towards them. A dragon’s tongue of flame licked Uncle Doug directly on the back. Jimmy, Samantha, and Ernest screamed, falling to the ground. Uncle Doug screamed in pain and fury. He slapped his enflamed back and lit his arms. Thick black smoke billowed off of his burning body. The makeup ran together in a loose sludge. His eyeballs popped and blood ran down his melting cheeks. Uncle Doug’s pig plopped to the ground in tiny bacon crisps.
Orange ashes from his costume took flight and went in all directions. Uncle Doug finally stopped screaming and thrashing and fell to his knees. Ernest had to look away from the blinding light emanating from the holes in Uncle Doug’s burnt flesh. And then he simply exploded into the bright white light. Ernest covered his eyes until the world dimmed into the pale moonlight.
Before he could fully adjust Terrance was in the air. He yelped and landed on his back behind them. A dark figure stood there with black eyes. Mackenzie roared, reedy and coated in flying spittle. “Mortals, you dare come for us? The legion, you have no- GAH!”
Jimmy gave him a direct hit with the pepper spray. In the face. Samantha didn’t hesitate with her bat, swinging it at the vampire’s legs. He jerked back in time though and grabbed the bat, blinking tears out of his eyes. Mackenzie snapped the slugger over his knees and threw the pieces to the side. “Give me that!” he rushed forward and gripped Jimmy’s arm. He pulled him up and shoved him into the ground. Once. Twice.
“Stop it!” Samantha yelled. Ernest directed the harpoon directly at Mackenzie’s head. He kept aim with steady arms. It wasn’t cold outside anymore. There was plenty of warmth in his coat and his hat and the rage in his veins. He gave the vampire a cool gaze.
“You kiddies better leave, now. I keep Stuart; I keep him for the rest of eternity!” Mackenzie said. His fangs dribbled saliva over Jimmy’s face. Jimmy tried to cringe but the strong hands pinning him by the collar kept any movement at bay. “Leave!”
“No.” Ernest said. A deranged stillness had entered his voice. He felt like an alien. This wasn’t him talking. It couldn’t be. “You let both of my friends go or I will end you.”
He was going to do it either way. Pull the trigger. Do it.
Mackenzie sneered at him. Jimmy squirmed an arm free and shocked Mackenzie with his Taser. The vampire’s face went stock still, jaws cranked open and tongue flopping within. And then he flashed his fangs and grinned like the devil. He let out a deep growl and leaned down for Jimmy’s neck even with the Taser still being pumped into his body. Ernest took the shot as the vampire’s heart was exposed.
The harpoon entered Mackenzie’s ribcage and exited out the other side, piercing his heart all the way, through and through. Mackenzie stared up at him in horror for a moment. His final words shocked Ernest. “Thank you, you’re a good kid.”
It was barely above a whisper and Ernest wasn’t sure if anyone but him heard it. Samantha kicked at the rapidly decomposing corpse sitting over Jimmy. Ashes blew away on their own wind.
Stuart couldn’t help but high five each of his friends and hug Samantha when they opened the door. Terrance was limping and Jimmy didn’t feel so good. Ernest was detached from the rest of the group. “So what do you want to do now?” Terrance asked.
“I’m going home,”
They all nodded. “We’ll take you there.” Ernest said.
“What do we say about your ugly face?” Jimmy teased.
“I fell on the trampoline,”
“Oh,” Jimmy said.
Stuart drew back and walked with Ernest. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Ernest said. He kept rubbing the harpoon’s spear tip with his shirt to clean it. “I’m just shocked that vampires actually exist.”
“At least your father’s hunting came in handy right?”
“That it did,” Ernest said quietly, “That it did.”
... Author's Note: This story is the unedited, uncomplete version of what I have written. Have a nice day!